Rhode Island "Super-Sanctuary" Bill Dead (Again)
By David Jaroslav | April 19, 2018
Rhode Island has been a sanctuary state since 2014, when then-Governor Lincoln Chaffee directed the state’s executive-branch agencies, and in particular its Department of Corrections (RIDOC), to stop honoring federal immigration detainers unless accompanied by a court order. In Rhode Island this has an outsized impact compared to most states since there are no county jails: RIDOC houses everyone who gets arrested, whether “awaiting trial [or] sentenced.” But this sanctuary policy is still only an executive directive, not legislation, so while current Governor Gina Raimondo has left it in place, a future governor could unilaterally change or eliminate it.
This situation is apparently no longer enough for the Ocean State’s open-borders lobby, who two years in a row now have managed to get their allies in the state legislature to introduce one of the most extreme sanctuary bills not just anywhere in the country, but in history. 2017’s House Bill 6021 became 2018’s House Bill 7537, but otherwise they’re identical as the euphemistically-named “Rhode Island Values Act.”
The bill goes far beyond the scope of most sanctuary legislation. Like SB 183 in California, it purports to forbid personnel of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) from entering schools, hospitals, places of worship and courthouses without a judicial warrant. It imposes this prohibition even when those buildings are otherwise open to the public. Additionally, it also imposes this prohibition even when those buildings are the property not of state or local government but of private parties.
It would, in fact, quite likely put those private parties in an impossible position where complying with state law requires them to commit a federal crime, probably by violating the “alien smuggling” law for “conceal[ing], harbor[ing], or shield[ing] from detection” illegal aliens, which is punishable by up to five years in prison “for each alien” involved. [emphasis added]
The bill was on the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee’s agenda for a hearing on April 11. Just as they did in 2017, the committee voted neither for nor against it, but to order it “held for further study.”
A study order in Rhode Island does not mean a bill is officially dead, like voting it down would be: it can be taken up and considered by the committee again during the same session. But if Rhode Island’s legislative process is anything like that of Massachusetts—and New England states often follow similar practices—being sent to study is usually a face-saving way to let a bill die without having to formally defeat it.
In most cases, a bill sent to study two years in a row clearly isn’t a leadership priority, and is probably unlikely to resurface. Let’s hope this is the last we hear about the sanctuary issue in Rhode Island for awhile.